Friday 31 July 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE: I can ROAR like a Dinosaur by Karl Newson and Ross Collins

Published: August 2020, Macmillan

Mouse is back in her third fabulous picture book and she's as bold and as bonkers as ever!
Mouse is a dinosaur with a roarsome roar...or is she? Her roar seems to have vanished! Never fear, for she has a 'How to Roar like a Dinosaur' book. Now she is teaching all the other animals how to roar - but only she can do it best. Hang on a minute! There may be someone helping her...who on earth could it be? Mmmm! And anyway, what if Mouse is not a dinosaur after all...?
In Philip Ardagh's words (taken from the front cover) Mouse is definitely 'the most awesome mouse since the Gruffalo' with a personality as big as any dinosaur that ever roamed the planet. Her determination to be whoever she wants to be leads readers through another riotous story filled with endless fun and bafflement. 
Mouse will not be confined to who or what her friends say she is. Teeny-tiny? Not on your nelly! Her failure to roar leaves her concerned for simply a nanosecond. Then what does she do? Get help of course! 
Rolling through life oblivious to the truth that surrounds her is Mouse's bag. It's her own truths she's concerned with. And when you feel big and powerful in yourself then the scariest creatures just seem like...well...mice (or something equally small fry).
Once again, Ross Collins nails Mouse's expressions as well as those of 'the silly old bunch' she hangs out with. Coupled with some wide open, drooling jaws, we have a story dripping with humour, fun and just a little bit of fear -mine not Mouse's. The dialogue is as hilarious as the interaction between characters and I can imagine all little readers, including my five year old, following the steps to roar like a dinosaur.
After all, if Mouse can do it, surely we all can to!

I Can ROAR Like a Dinosaur is available to pre-order now and is released on the 6th August. 

Thursday 30 July 2020

The Water's Daughter by Michelle Lovric

Published: July 2020, Hachette Children's Group

Not being familiar with Michelle Lovric as an author, I was instantly drawn to this book by the blurb on the back. An historical novel set in Venice featuring a main character with 'history fingers' ticked all my boxes. Add into the mix some missing boys, an abandoned palace with a sinister reputation for eating them and a deluge of never-ending rain and I was hooked. Within the first couple of pages, I knew this was going to be a sizzler. 
Little did I know that the description above was a fraction of delights hidden within the pages. Forget my prediction that this would be a mystery novel, solved by a girl who can see history with a mere touch of her fingertips. This is a dazzling tale of djinns, mermaids, talking statues and pirates woven through the history of two exquisite settings: Venice and Arabia. 
 When another boy goes missing near 'The Palace that Eats Boys', Aurelia Bon tries to use her history fingers to uncover the secrets of her mysterious ancestral home. Instead, she finds a palace inside a palace, an Arabian castle trapped for centuries by a careless, lovesick djinn, Ghazalah
Desperate to escape the fate she has bestowed upon herself, Ghazalah wreaks havoc on the city she despises. But there are worse dangers in store for Venice - Barbary pirates led by the legendary Irish Duchess! Now it is up to Aurelia, the water's daughter, to ally with the mermaids and parley for peace. 
This novel galumphs along at breakneck speed into a plot that encompasses all the magical elements you could ever wish for. Lovric's sensory descriptions bring both Venetian and Arabian history vividly to life brick by brick, and intertwines them in a deliciously inventive way. The twists and turns are as  unpredictable as Ghazalah's magic and as breath-taking as Aurelia's talent. 
There were times when I wondered whether the plot was too busy to allow us to spend enough time with each character, who were all highly original and complex. Dear Valerio was endearing and constant and provided a much needed anchor to the other wilder personalities, who clashed beautifully with sparky and fiery backchat. I adored that Aurelia, Ghazalah, Simoneto Ghezzo and the Irish Duchess were all hugely flawed and had bags of agency, allowing them to make disastrous decisions again and again. Yet, none of these characters, even the villains, were cast aside. Lovric allowed the reader to see the past intricacies of each personality in the same way she allowed the characters themselves to grow in self-awareness, aiding their chance at possible redemption. 
The historical element of the story was fascinating. Never before was I aware of the ancient relationship between Arabia and Venice. Lovric covers exceptional ground in a very short space of time, weaving hard facts through myths and legends and religious beliefs, then adding a large dose of magical fantasy for extra sparkle. 
All the information is fascinating. From the Arabian and Venetian architecture to the tough truths of slavery to the stereotype-busting descriptions of the Djinn - this is an eye-opening read which makes me want to travel and learn and explore. It holds up mistakes made in history and mistakes made on a personal level and explores the impact they have on other humans, other nations and on the people that make them in the first place. The result is a novel that has more cleverly-crafted layers than the number of pages. 
This is a magical, historical fantasy with a dark heart based in truth. It's intense, tackles serious issues and yet never stops being enjoyable. The humorous dialogue is a highlight, as are the feisty, self-absorbed characters and the shimmer of the Arabian sun shines through the rain, leaving us with hope in the future and with hope in mankind. 
An absolute scorcher!

Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review. 

Sunday 26 July 2020

Octopus Shocktopus by Peter Bently. Illustrated by Steven Lenton

                                                            Link to Goodreads
                                                            Published: July 2020, Nosy Crow

A giant octopus living on top of your house? How absurd I hear you say! Yet, in the brilliantly upbeat rhyming book the initial shock of the surprise visitor soon becomes the new normal. And, by the time you finish this book you'll be wanting one on your roof too!
When an octopus makes itself at home on a coastal village rooftop, there are mixed reactions from the villagers. It looks like things are not going to work out well until the neighbourhood children discover what a great playmate an octopus can be. Soon, the octopus' eight tentacles become invaluable to everybody...until the octopus disappears as suddenly as it arrives. Will their friend ever come back? And if it does, will their be another shock in store?
This was an instant hit with all of my three children. A colourful octopus on a roof, perfectly portrayed by Steven Lenton's fantastically detailed illustrations, was a concept too irresistible to miss out on. Peter Bently's flawless, fast-paced rhythm sweeps you up as fast as an octopus' tentacle and whizzes you through an exhilarating narration of a story that is as delightful as it is unique.
The simplicity of the plot is genius. In a time of uncertainty and upheaval, it promotes the importance of friendship, community and difference whilst remaining purely light-hearted. I love the endless charm of it, the change in seasons and the dazzling centre page where the octopus is showcased in all its glory. The ending is again very simple but hugely effective and the detail on the final page of illustrations is so enchanting it leaves the reader with a couple of very important questions...what colour octopus do you want on your roof and what will its hobby be?
From a fishing and kite-flying octopus to the single baking squid, this book will encourage you to cast aside any worries and participate in five minutes of shared, carefree reading. It will make you feel as light as the breeze and as giddy as a day at the funfair. After all, anything is possible, right?

Tuesday 14 July 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE: DOSH by Rashmi Sirdeshpande

Published by: Wren and Rook (part of Hachette Children's Group)
Released: August 2020

Link to Pre-order

For years in my role as a primary teacher, I championed any opportunity to teach children real life skills. Now, as a mum of three children who really seem to think that money grows on trees, I'm more in favour of it than ever.
Then along comes this book! Hallelujah! DOSH is a fascinating and informative read which dives straight into the nitty gritty of what money is, the history of money, how to earn, grow and save money and, of course, how to spend it...SENSIBLY!
Rashmi Sirdeshpande handles the complex nature of currency, cash and credit cards beautifully. Her writing is clear, to the point and includes age appropriate examples of how things work. The tone is encouraging, positive and straight-forward, plus there is no hint of any patronising - young people are capable of being entrepreneurs and there are examples to prove it!
If you're looking for a practical, mathematical book which will teach children the value of coins and how to calculate prices, change etc then this isn't it. This non-fiction narrative, aimed at children aged 8-12, delves much deeper into how currencies have developed globally over time, how they have evolved and are still evolving at a frightening pace. It talks about wages, business, investments and budgeting whilst challenging readers to think about both the benefits and pitfalls of money and what money means to them. Will handling money with care and respect enable you to live a prosperous life? Quite possibly! Will it buy you happiness and contentment?...probably not
This is a book that young people need to read! Combined with their hunger to learn and their thirst for independence, it will teach them financial skills that will hopefully last a lifetime and which many an adult, including myself, will wish they'd had access to when they were school-age. It's inspirational and it talks sense! Does it cover complex concepts? You bet! I have to admit that my head span somewhat when Rashmi Sirdeshpande started explaining 'Bitcoin', 'computer mining' and 'cryptocurrencies'. But, this is the future and the future belongs to our next generation of budding money-makers...and I have every faith that they can get to grips with it far faster than I ever will.
So, if you know a brilliant young businessperson or just want to teach your child to save and budget, then I highly recommend this fact-filled, corker of a might just be the best investment they've ever made!
Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review. 

Friday 10 July 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE - The Wizards of Once: Never and Forever (Book 4) by Cressida Cowell

Link to Waterstones Pre-order
Link to Amazon pre-order
Link to Hive Pre-order

Published by: Hachette Children's Group, Sep 2020


It's almost here! The fourth and final instalment of Cressida Cowell's amazing 'The Wizards of Once' series. After following these books from the beginning, this is something I have been waiting for since last September and I jumped to have the chance to review it via Netgalley.
Join Xar, Wish and Bodkin as they continue their quest to rid the WildWoods of the diabolical witches. This time, along with their band of loyal followers, they must journey into the Mines of Happiness to complete the spell that will banish their enemies, before taking on the KingWitch himself. But is Xar's poisonous witchstain too strong to cure? Does wispy Wish have control of her magic-that-works-on-iron? And what if their entrusted spell fails to work?
This is an adventure of epic proportions; a quest involving warriors, wizards, witches, giants and sea-monsters which creaks with ancient magic. Xar is a wizard with no magical powers. Wish is a warrior with a rare magical eye that works on iron. But in this world, magic doesn't work on iron-that is the accepted and proven rule! Yet, as these young heroes throw the rule book out the window and lead their tribes into a chaos that's riddled with curses, will deep wrongs ever be righted?
This is a book of unique, mysterious storytelling from an author who is also guilty of dispensing with the rule book. The ever present but unknown narrator TELLS us the story with large doses of opinions and finger-wagging, yet it works to the point of being masterful. Becoming immersed in this story feels like having a spell woven around you; one that pulls you in and keeps you captivated from beginning to end. The tone is deep and magical as we are transported back to a forgotten age where an eclectic mix of characters merge together to create a intoxicating cocktail of delicious madness.
There's bags of humour, which prevents the story from being too serious. Xar's brilliant tongue-in-cheek, reckless, over-confident character brings a large dose of light-hearted humour, balanced by the more serious Wish. Bodkin and Caliburn, although deeply anxious, also bring their own brand of unintentional amusement and the hugely entertaining Encanzo and Sychorax (Xar and Wish's respective parents) offer a brilliant satirical insight into the demands of being a responsible adult. Squeezjoos is beyond endearing...and then there is the flying door, the parping trumpet, not to mention the animated antics of the key, spoon and fork.
Don't relax too much though! Throughout all four novels the stakes are exceptionally high, danger lurks around every corner and the monsters are knee-knockingly terrifying. From the Kingwitch himself, to the vast jaws of the Nucklavee, to the wily, mine-dwelling Tatzulworm, this story is not for the faint-hearted. Still, it seems that our heroes have it all under control...
The ending was genius! With four books leading up to a conclusion, the question often is, can it deliver? I can honestly say this one did, both in the dynamic action of the final battle but also in the way the characters delivered and in the surprise and hilarious twist at the end. In contrast, the revelation of who the narrator wasn't quite as surprising or satisfying, but it made sense. I also felt that the character of Wish was slightly lost in the final tale and would have liked to have spent more time inside her head, especially in the lead up to her final confrontation with the Kingwitch. However, none of this detracted from the utter brilliance of the overall plot.
So, if you're thirsty for a quest with a difference then I cannot recommend this series highly enough. Don't wait for it to be turned into a movie! Curl up, start from the very beginning and prepare to lose yourself in this fantastic fantasy adventure.
(Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review.)
Book 1: The Wizards of Once
Book 2: Twice Magic
Book 3: Knock Three Times

Thursday 9 July 2020

Poo! Is That You? by Clare Helen Welsh and Nicola O'Byrne

                                                                    Link to publisher
                                                          Published: Macmillan, July 2020

           It was only last month that Clare Helen Welsh shared with us her beautifully written and emotionally driven tale The Perfect Shelter. Yet, here we are a few weeks later celebrating the launch of another Clare Helen Welsh text, which couldn't be more different but is equally brilliant.
           Lemmy the Lemur is trying to catch forty winks whilst on holiday in the South American rainforest. But a 'nasty niff' is preventing him from napping in peace. Who could possibly be responsible for such a whiffy pong? Is it millipede? Or maybe sloth? Surely, it can't be anteater, can it? Or maybe it's not an animal at all? Whatever the cause, Lemmy better get to the BOTTOM of it, if he wants a scent-free snooze. But...maybe no one is completely innocent when it comes to the sniff test...
           This brilliantly presented picture book falls into the category of  'Narrative Non-Fiction' - factual information wrapped up in the context of a story. Lemmy the Lemur's cuteness captured our hearts from the second we saw the cover and our love for him continued right until we came out the other side. He is the perfect main character to lead us through the tale; confused, curious and totally endearing. Plus, through him we meet a whole rainforest full of interesting and engaging creatures... and even a rotten meat-smelling plant!
          The language that Clare Helen Welsh weaves is joyous, humorous and very, very satisfying. The repetition, rhythm and alliteration instantly draws the reader in and invites them to interact with the text. Who can shout 'Poo! Is that You?' the loudest? What is that whiff he can sniff? And will Lemmy ever get his sunny, summer snooze? Plus, the fun doesn't end with the story! At the back is a host of funky facts on the foulest of foulers...and you may even spot someone familiar.
          This doesn't feel like a typical toilet humour story. It's fun, delightful, informative and tasteful with the perfect combination of fact and fiction. It's warmth and wit will bring a smile to young and old and make education wildly entertaining. The illustrations by Nicola O'Byrne bring the whole animal world to life and Lemmy's expressions are just hilarious! Quite simply, this is a stonking, scorcher of a summer release and I think everyone needs Lemmy in their home...minus the accompanying stink, of course!

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